If you read my last article about heart-shaped bokeh, you’ll know I tried (and failed) to create a fun Valentine’s photo with letter tiles in the foreground. Here’s what I did with those tiles instead.

It didn’t work because the nifty 50mm I use for my DIY bokeh modifier can’t shoot macro: It has a long minimum focus distance of 450mm (almost 18 inches). I do, however, own a macro lens, the handy Canon EF-S 35mm f/2.8 Macro IS STM lens.

As a side note, this lens isn’t suitable for bokeh modifying, because it’s f/2.8 and an EF-S (cropped sensor) mount, so the effective f-stop isn’t wide enough for the big, round bokeh needed.

What it does do, however, is take great macro photos! On my Canon EOS 7D Mark II crop sensor camera the focal length of the 35mm lens is effectively around 55mm so it gives a lovely true-to-human-vision look to macro photos.

I decided to use my letter tiles (mine are from Bananagrams, but Scrabble tiles are great, too) for some Valentine’s flat lays and macros instead.

The setup was simple: I used an off-camera flash (my Canon Speedlight 430EX II) mounted on a receiver (I use Godox X1R) and a flash transmitter (Godox X1T) on my camera. I pointed the flash at the ceiling to provide soft, even bounced light.

If you don’t have a transmitter and receiver for off-camera flash, you could just as easily use the flash on-camera, and just make sure the head is pointed at the ceiling when you reposition your camera between shots.

Ideas for decorative elements in your Valentine’s macro photos

When making your own personalized Valentine’s macros and flat lays, here’s some ideas of what you could include:

  • Letters and words: Letter tiles from a board game, from an old typewriter or handwritten on textured paper.
  • Ribbons, cord, silks, fake fur and other interesting fabrics.
  • Old Polaroids or vintage black and white photos from the family album.

  • Ephemera: Stamps, stickers, old letters, tickets, postcards.
  • Stationery: Textured papers, paper clips, pens, ink bottles, calligraphy nibs, ornate tools like scissors, old staplers and wax stamps. If you’re keen to get messy, try daubs of wet paint on thick watercolor paper.
  • Oddities and trinkets: Look around your house and collect items based on themes like color (find a collection of yellow things) or style (find a bunch of vintage-look things).
  • Flowers and plants: Choose your Valentine’s favorite flower or one that’s meaningful to you both. Also try leaves, sticks, fruits or even insects.

  • Christmas lights
  • Jewelry, such as wedding rings, engagement rings, necklaces and lockets with photos inside. Choose things with a personal meaning to you and your Valentine.
  • Food: jelly beans, decorated cup cakes, chocolates, berries.

What to do with your Valentine’s flat lay or macro photo

These would be a great cover for a custom Valentine’s card, and an easy photo activity for kids to do. They will love looking for the items to use in the flat lay. Experiment with different angles: Try getting down close to shoot across the scene.

Alternatively position everything perfectly square and shooting from above.

And when you’re done, why not share your photos on a stock website? This kind of photo has a wide range of uses, and you can pump out a bunch of different words and arrangements pretty quickly once you’ve gathered everything you need into one place!